Phillips de Pury Auction – My 3 Picks

UPDATE: The Swoon mentioned in this post may have been withdrawn from the auction.

Tomorrow afternoon is the Phillips de Pury Saturday Sale. Along with toys, watches, and contemporary art, this auction has a good deal of street art. I went to the opening of this show on Tuesday, and while it maybe be the best urban art auction I’ve seen ever seen in London and there are only a handful of pieces that should not be there, three items really stood out for me.

Lot 170
You Sure?, 2009
Spraypaint, acrylic and charcoal on canvas.  100 x 100 cm. (39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in.)
Estimate: £3,000-4,000
My thoughts – There are three great Herakut paintings on display at Phillips (plus two “in progress” works). This is the only one that will be sold at the auction. It is being sold to raise money for War Child, a charity helping children in conflict areas. It’s a very powerful piece, and contains a good amount of work from but Hera and Akut.

Lot 392
Os Gêmeos
Two works: Untitled (Head Box), 2005
Mixed media on wooden construction.  123.2 x 124.5 x 124.5 cm. (48 1/2 x 49 x 49 in.)
Estimate: £4,000-6,000
My thoughts – Who doesn’t love Os Gêmeos? Like many of their sculptures, these have been decorated inside and out, and viewers can stick their own heads up a hole at the bottom of the pieces to see the insides. Almost like two works in one. These giant heads are in the no-reserve section with an unbelieveably low estimate. For comparison, this canvas from the Dreweatts Urban Art Auction in October 2008 sold for £24,000. Surely most people would rather have these heads than a canvas. Of course, displaying them could be a nightmare, and they will in all likelihood end up in storage until they are put in a museum (which is where they belong).

Lot 393

, 2005
Hand-painted linoleum print on mylar.  Installation dimensions variable.
My thoughts – Another highly underestimated item in the auction’s no-reserve section. I can’t even imagine this going for £3,000. As usual, Swoon’s work is beautiful, but the 3D installation aspect of this piece makes it unique. It might be hard to see from this photograph, but many of the birds are on separate pieces of mylar and are meant to be floating varying depths away from the way. This could be the deal of the decade.

What do you think? See any other particularly special pieces up for sale tomorrow? Leave a comment or shoot me an email (rj (a-t)

The Sotheby’s Parlá

Those following urban art auctions closely have probably heard about the José Parlá original on board that was estimated by Sotheby’s at only $8,000-$12,000 (image can be found here). Nobody I spoke to could understand such a low estimate. The piece is quite big a 48 by 86 inches (about 1.2m x 2.2m), and it’s beautiful. It’s not like Parlá is the sort of Banksy derivative artist whose work is having a tough time selling in this market. I’m pretty sure that if Elms Lesters had another Parlá solo show next month lines would still be out the door.

Well, this evening lot 236 sold for $51,250 including Buyers Premium. I still don’t know how Sotheby’s could have have gotten the estimate so wrong, but I’m glad the rest of the world saw this gem and realized what it is actually worth.

Bonhams Auction Results

Just got home from tonight’s Bonhams Urban Art Auction. Results can be found here.

My immediate reactions can be found on the Vandalog Twitter.

In short, most work didn’t sell or was at the low end of the estimate (Banksy’s “Happy Copper” went for just above half the low estimate). The room was packed, but packed full of non-bidders interested in just seeing the results. The atmosphere was not depressing or so, but it was certainly a buyer’s market.

Surprise of the evening was the canvas by RESO which went for over £5000 (including buyer’s premium). I’ve never heard of him. To compare, two pretty good Supine pieces went unsold for much less. Anybody know about this RESO guy?

Thoughts on Bonhams February Auction

Spent some time today checking out the catolog for the February 24th urban art auction at Bonhams in London. A few people have noted the extremely high number of Banksy lots (22 of 78) and dismissed this auction, but I’ve found a few potential deals to be had. If you’ve got the money to spend and you can weed through the crap, people are looking to sell some really nice work. Here’s what I’ve found:

1. Banksy – Kate Moss (series of 6)
Estimate: £100,000 – 150,000

Banksy Kate Moss

There was a time when just one of these 6 could go for £100,000. Perhaps Banksy’s most sought after print. The winner of this auction will be a very lucky man/woman in a decade. Continue reading “Thoughts on Bonhams February Auction”

3 Reasons A Recession Is Good For Street Art

Work by K-Guy. Photo by K-Guy
Work by K-Guy. Photo by K-Guy

Everybody’s been talking about how the recession is going to destroy every part of our economy, and yeah, it probably will, but it’s not all bad new… street art might actually get a boost in the long run thanks to this economic downturn.

Here are three possible advantages for street art in this recession:

1. The not very talented artists who have found their way into galleries are going to be put in their place.
So many people have been buying street art either for the name of the artist, or just because it is street art. This year, some collectors are concerned that even great artists won’t sell much work. People have stopped buying for name or genre recognition. Collectors are buying those “special pieces” that they feel are particularly great. At the end of this recession, there are going to be a lot fewer crap street artists because their work  is going to stop selling. Nobody wants to buy a piece any more just because the Sotheby’s catalog describes it as “stencil and spray paint on found wood.” Continue reading “3 Reasons A Recession Is Good For Street Art”

Gallery Profiles: Black Rat Press

Update: Part Two is now online here.

This is the first in a series of interviews with directors/curators/whatever-they-wish-to-be-called of art galleries.

To start it all off, I’ve got Mike Snelle, the owner of The Black Rat Press. BRP is one of London’s premier galleries specializing in street art. In the past year, the gallery has shown work from Swoon, Blek le Rat, Nick Walker, D*face, and many others. Located in Shoreditch, behind Cargo and next two a few Banksy pieces, BRP is a must-visit gallery for any street art fan.

On a personal note, BRP was the first gallery I ever visited that sold street art, and I did a work experience there this summer. They are some of the most fun people I know in the art world, and I certainly wouldn’t have started Vandalog without their willingness to let me spend far too much time admiring their shows.

This is part one of a two part interview. I’ll post part two tomorrow.

RJ: What sets The Black Rat Press apart from other galleries?

Mike Snelle: I think galleries are similar to artists in that those that are most interesting have their own unique voice and do not imitate others. I feel that we are developing that here at Black Rat and hope to continue to do so next year. It’s partly a matter of not being dictated to by the marketplace and what’s hot at the moment. It is more valuable and interesting to work with artists that you believe in even when sometimes other people don’t get it. You hope as a gallery that over time people will come to share your belief in an artists work.

Continue reading “Gallery Profiles: Black Rat Press”

The Sky Is Falling

The Dreweatts Urban Art auction underperformed.

Work at Frieze didn’t sell as well as in previous years.

The Sotheby’s Contemporary Art auction was a flop.

Bonhams’ Urban Art auction left great pieces onsold and others at far below the estimate.

The art market, and the urban art market in particular, is not looking good. But is it over?

Adam Martin at  Beautiful Crime says no, and I have to agree. Martin argues for a second wave in the urban art market.

I talked to a number of dealers there and the odd Euro rich punter and the feeling was, the market had gotten a little overheated at the top end of late and this was a ‘shake down auction‘.

Ultimately it’s a positive outcome, greed has been replaced by a need for more realistic pricing. Lesser known Artist’s, Zero, Cept, Word to Mother did well and I think reflect the market’s need to look beyond the Banksy’s and Neate’s which are now in hedgeless hedge fund realms, and look to nurture some new talent.

I’d say this was officially the beginning of the second wave of urban art.

I very much agree with Martin’s prediction of a second wave of urban art. In this second wave, prices readjust and (to an extent) take hype out of the equation, and the size of the midrange market increases, offering underrated artists like Cept, Armsrock, and Know Hope a chance to increase both their fanbase and their prices. Artists like D*Face, on the other hand, may have a hard time in this new market.

The economic downturn is certainly not the end of the genre that some have speculated. In fact, due to the nature of urban art, it would be pretty hard for it to ever die out completely. Because of the anti-establishment and “working man” nature of a lot of urban art, parts of the market should be embraced and grow much stronger during an economic downturn, and others will decline. Essentially, the “real” collectors of urban art will come back into control of the market (for a little while).

I see the urban art market as a bit like a pickup truck on a dirt road. Right now, we’ve hit a rough patch, and when we make it back to a smooth road all the contents of the truck will be a bit jumbled around. Some artists will have fallen to the bottom of the market, and others will rise to the top.